1/23/2020

"animal moves": the book and the deck

in the field of fitness and exercise there is a large quantity of books that can easily be underrated at a first sight. the fact is that we don't trust anyone anymore because there are so many texts, methods and workout plans that promise a total body transformation in just a few weeks and that too often end with a total failure. when i had the chance to have a look at "animal moves" for the first time i thought that it could easily belong to this category. i was making a mistake.
the author, Darryl Edwards, is considered one of the founding fathers of the so-called paleo lifestyle (which is actually much more than a diet, have a look at this previous post if you're interested in my personal opinion on paleo) and his training method is based on a concept that too often is underestimated in the world of fitness: the importance of maintaining a playful approach to our daily workouts and to life in general (the website primalplay.com by the same author is a good starting point if you want to investigate on the subject of add some elements of play and fun to your daily routine).
having this basic concept as starting point, the whole training method is based on something that we all were used to do during our childhood: moving around imitating the way of walking of various animals. every single exercise is explained in details and very well presented with lots of pictures. we will walk on four legs like bears, crawl like snakes, jump around like rabbits and move laterally like crabs. i know, it's nothing new for people into calisthenics or underground fitness, but the book is dedicated mainly to people used to a sedentary lifestyle who want to start a non-specific workout routine based on total-body functional exercises that can lead to regaining some health and improving the overall fitness level without stressing too much the single muscle groups. and for this purpose, it works wonders.
the whole plan is developed in four weeks and for each day of the week there is a workout to complete with the number of reps and the level of intensity of single exercises varying according to the reader's starting fitness level (beginner, intermediate, expert athlete). all daily workouts come with a lot of details, comprehending the time needed to perform it and how much effort has to be expected from the session. this big amount of details is precious especially for beginners that need to be extremely consistent with their training, as it allows to plan successfully the workouts and incorporate them in the daily schedule. this is a key factor to keep up with a training plan through the days: in other training books or methods the importance of sustainability in the long run is often underestimated (for example, scheduling two or more workouts a day at fixed times ends up requiring too much time and effort for people with a busy life, with the result of too many people giving up on their whole fitness goals).
now, let me say that if you're used to crossfit wods or other forms of intense functional exercise, it won't take you too much effort to finish the daily workouts, even the ones for expert athletes. but that's a good choice as the book can be intended as a guide for people that want to start a fitness routine trying a different approach from the usual cardio – strength-training alternation.  still, this does not mean that calisthenic athletes or expert firebreathers can't reap some benefits from this method: i can say that many exercises work stabiliser muscles in ways that i've never experienced in other training systems, improving at the same time balance and coordination too. adding some ankle and wrist weights, we'll have a solid, complete and unusual workout at good intensity. or let's keep the animal moves sessions for our low-intensity days, when the target is mostly improving mobility and loosening muscles. in my opinion, having a go with the "animal moves" workouts is a good option also as a crosstraining method for pro athletes that are used to a specific type of training and that need to put some variety in their weekly routine.
to make things even more playful and fun-oriented, together with the book it's possible to buy a deck of cards (called "animal moves" too) in which every card represents an exercise of the ones presented in the book. the basic idea here is to pick up randomly a card and then do the exercise for the given number of reps (as in the book, on every card the number of recommended reps is different for beginners, intermediate or advanced athletes). to add some fun, there are bonus cards too that require to halve or double the number of reps of the next picked card, or to repeat the sequence of the previous one. then obviously the deck can be used to easily create other fitness-based games that can be a lot of fun for all the family. now honestly, the whole pick-up-a-card-and-do-the-exercise thing is nothing new, it comes right from the russian oldschool tradition of fitness and workout, the same one that became so popular some years ago when kettlebells started to be used in every gym of the planet. anyway, the deck is a good gadget to play around with and have some fun, and doing an exercise without knowing what will come next may become a refreshing experience especially for people who tend to plan every little detail of their workouts or that end up repeating over and over the same routine.
as for the book, i suppose that most crossfitters and athletes used to hard functional training will consider a workout session with the deck quite easy to finish and not too taxing when compared to classic wods, but still it can represent a funny thing to do during the recovery days or low-intensity sessions. for sure spending some time with the "animal moves" deck will be a lot better than playing poker, no matter your age or your fitness level.

update: right after posting this review, i was honored to have a contact via instagram with Darryl Edwards himself. he suggested to try to do all the exercises of the deck in advanced level with no rest between sets. i did it. all i have to say is... f***ing intense. a great workout.